Book Review: “The Mistresses of Charles II” by Brian Masters

Masters Mistresses book cover


This book was published in 1979.  I had never heard of the author but his many works include books on a variety of topics including the aristocracy, French history, biography, positive thinking and serial killers.  The subject of this volume is four of the mistresses of King Charles II.

Charles was one of the most popular monarchs ever to reign in England and also one of the most amorous.  Masters says there is no way of knowing exactly how mistresses Charles had but he believes there were fifteen that were documented and known.  He says the four women covered in this volume were each in their own way important in the King’s life.  All the women had progeny by the king that left their mark on the aristocracy of Britain.

Lucy Walter was Charles’ lover in his adolescence during his early years in exile after the execution of his father King Charles I.  Their liaison didn’t last long but it produced a son named James whom his father elevated to the title of Duke of Monmouth.  Monmouth was the founder of the Dukedom of Buccleuch through his marriage to Anne Scott, daughter of the 2nd Earl of Buccleuch.  Charles’ most infamous mistress, Barbara Villiers was a fiery and avaricious beauty.  Charles elevated her to the title of Duchess of Cleveland and her illegitimate son by the king, became the first Duke of Grafton,

Charles’ final mistress was a Breton, Louise de Kéroualle.  She was introduced into the English court by King Louis XIV of France to act as a spy and further French interests.  She became Charles’ maîtresse-en-titre and was queen in all but name.  Louise became the Duchess of Portsmouth and her illegitimate son was the Duke of Richmond.  Charles’ most popular mistress was Nell Gwyn.  She was an actress who was witty, gay, fun and honest.  She was the Protestant mistress and her son became the first Duke of St. Albans.  That’s a portrait of her and her son on the book cover.

Other mistresses covered are Frances Stuart, Hortense Mancini, Duchesse Marzarin, and another actress Moll Davis.  I have to say this book is so well-written and such a fun read, I didn’t really want it to end.  Masters sticks to the subject matter and doesn’t get sidetracked in any way.  The lives of these women are fascinating.  I highly recommend this book.

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